tv Tavis Smiley PBS February 25, 2010 12:00am-12:30am EST
>> good evening from los angeles. first up tonight, in conversation with evan bayh on his decision to retire from congress. he has cited the corrosive nature of politics in washington as his primary reason for stepping down. also, a preview of the health care summit in washington with sherrod brown. he sits on the committee that oversees health care. tomorrow, members of both parties will join president obama for a nationally televised conversation about health care reform. we are glad you have joined us. the senators are coming up right now. >> there are so many things that walmart is looking forward to doing, like helping people live better. mostly, we're looking forward to help building stronger communities and relationships. the best is yet to come.
>> nationwide insurance proudly supports tavis smiley. chavis and nationwide insurance, working to improve -- tavis and nationwide insurance, working to improve stability. >> and by contributions to your pbs stations by viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] >> evan bayh recently announced his decision not to seek another term in the senate. he also served two terms as governor of indiana. he joins us tonight from capitol hill. it is always good to have you back on the program. >> good to be with you. tavis: for those who did not see
the "the new york times" piece you wrote last sunday, which went in depth into why you decided to not run for office from indiana in terms of the senate again, explain that, particularly against the backdrop of having a 20-point lead in the polls, $13 million in the bank, why step aside as a democrat when you are running everything in washington, why leave now? >> i am all about getting things done to help people make the most of their lives. i was privileged to do that for eight years as our governor, two years as secretary of state, and i have served in the senate. we have a lot of wonderful people here. i admire many of my colleagues. the institutional structure, the culture has led us to gridlock on many major issues. we are not getting enough done. i felt that in a different capacity, i could serve my state and country, and perhaps make a
bigger contribution in -- rather than continuing to serve in the senate. tavis: more about why you think washington is frozen. >> in some ways, it is the nature of our politics right now. we have got some people who are stridently partisan. they put political interests ahead of trying to get a consensus on what is right. we have some people who are good people. they believe strongly, but they put their ideology over practicality. if you can get half a loaf, that is better than none. we have the filibuster in the senate. so many things get brought to a stop because of the use of that. senators do not interact much anymore. they do not have the personal relationships they did in my father's day that allowed them to transcend ideological differences. you put all of that together, and in some quarters, compromise
is viewed as an act of the trail or heresy rather than a step forward. we put that together, it is a difficult time right now. these things are personal. i have no complaint with my colleagues running for election. these are intensely personal decisions. i just felt that helping a business grow by creating jobs, helping the university to educate children, perhaps leading a philanthropy, maybe that is not quite as an exalted state as the u.s. senate, but in an everyday, tangible way, i felt i could put my head on the pillow at night feeling i got something good done. tavis: i get the sense that what you laid out for me right now is a list of options, things that you could do but have not settled on what you will do. correct, or not? >> i have no idea what i will do. my deal with my wife as i will tell her first. 4 give me -- forgive me for not
telling you. my decision was all about the next six years of my life. i am not a committee chairman. i am not in leadership. we have the president of our country who i admire and respect. they will set the agenda more than someone in my position. i had to ask myself, what kind of contribution will you make there as opposed to the contribution you could make in other capacities? i have not closed the door to doing something else in public life that some point. this was about this year, this fall, and looking over the next few years, how could i make the biggest contribution in a tangible way? i concluded that making a change is right for me now. maybe it is only in washington or political circles, but the thought of perpetually running for public office is the only way you can help the country. i don't believe that to be the case. tavis: to has been written about
this. the country knows you were on the short list, the very short list, of possible running mates that and then-senator obama was looking at. he chose joe biden. does any of that factor into this decision that you were not the number two choice? >> none whatsoever. it was an honor to be included. i told my wife, i finished second in a contest where they don't give silver medals. that was a tremendous honor, to go through that can be thought of in that way by the president and his team. that has nothing to do with it. i have a good relationship, based upon mutual respect, with the president. i talked to him about this decision on a couple of occasions. i said to him, mr. president, if you had asked me to do almost anything else, i would have said yes. i love serving my country.
i included in this particular capacity after 12 years, it was time to make a change. tavis: in indiana, i know this because i have talked to my family, who still lives in indiana, there is talk -- you are beloved in indiana, but there is concern and there are questions about why this decision came so late in the primary process. >> well, two reasons for that. first, as you can imagine, this was a very difficult decision for me. i was conflicted about it until the end. i told my wife i was conflicted and i would be as i was making my statement. i still have mixed feelings. this is very hard. i was also asked by the president and others to run again, to reconsider the decision that had been forming in my mind for some time. it was only the presence of a deadline to finally forced me to make a decision.
i did. there was nothing more to it than that. it was a very hard decision. this has been my entire life and i was being asked to reconsider, to give it more time, and i did that. let me say this. i think the democratic party is going to have a very strong nominee. we have several good people looking at it and i intend to support weber that nominee is very vigorously. i think we have a good chance even in a difficult year to win that election. tavis: you believe that democrats have a good chance of winning in indiana. a lot of people see it differently. people believe the former republican serving from indiana might be the favorite to reclaim the seat. to your point about being conflicted, how bad would you feel on a wednesday in november -- how bad will you feel on the
day after election day if a republican takes the seat that all indications suggest you could have held on too, had you decided to stay in the race? >> i won't feel very good about that. i will do everything i can to help the nominee. to run for an election just to hold an office i do not think is good enough for the people of the state. i want to make a contribution to the extent that i can. i reached the conclusion i could do that in the capacity. to just run, i do not think that is really a straight forward and honorable thing to do. i will do everything i can to prevent that outcome. i hope it does not happen. we tend to be more republican than democrat. that is true. this is a year in which it will be a difficult environment. having said that, this election will be between two individuals. i think we will have an outstanding individual. at the end of the day, indiana will make a comparison about who
they want representing them in the senate, not a political party, not an atmosphere, but what individual. we will be able to make a good case that our nominee is the right and it will. tavis: you might write a book about this, but give me insights now as to what the challenge has been, what the journey has been like being a democrat, moderate democrat from a pretty republican state. give me the crib notes on what you will say about that in coming years. >> i do not know if i will write a book. if i do, i will not tell tales about anybody. i do not believe in that. u.s. neapolitan its of our state. there myths we need to dispel. democrats care about economic growth and job creation, not just redistributing wealth, but creating it in the first place. we have an agenda for growth and job creation. that is number one.
some people in the business community wonder. we have to reassure them. secondly, we can be fiscally responsible and good stewards of taxpayer money. that is what we care about coming effected government, not larger government, delivering the results people can expect. we read -- we measure outcomes, not just been put. we care about efficient government. the third thing during these difficult times, we can be effective on national security. we care about being respected in the world and all those kinds of things, but we also care about the physical security of our country and citizens. we will be vigorous, including where appropriate the use of force to defend our people and our country. if you approach -- approach people from that perspective, they know we have big heart. they know we are compassionate. that is part of our dna.
if we can reassure them on other things, we have more challenges in our home state. tavis: you suggested you think the democrats have a decent shot at retaining your seat in our state of indiana. how do you feel democrats will do across the country? i ask that because you are not the only democrat in the house or senate stepping aside in pretty safe seats. how was the democratic party -- what will president obama work with the day after election day in november? >> it looks like, between now and election is many months. and the politics, that can be an eternity. things can change. there can be events that nobody would predict would come along. people are kind of unhappy because the economy is not so good. they are unhappy about the deficit, particularly independent voters. there is kind of an unsettled mood in the country and that
works against incumbents. there'll be people going to the ballot box asking, who can be an effective change agent for me? you can change business as usual in washington and deliver enough of the ideology? who can deliver the results on the things that matter in my daily life? i think that is what people will be looking for coming independent, a democrat, republican, that is what they will look for. that is what the dynamic will be. you saw some of that and the massachusetts. tavis: have been friends and i know if i do not fit to interview you again on this program, i know we will spend some time together off air down the road. thank you for being willing to come on this program. we call upon you and i appreciate this opportunity to talk to you. >> it has been my pleasure. if you invite me back, i will come anytime.